Several months ago at my Buckeye Prep Invitational tournament I was approached by Dr. Kenneth Ransom regarding him putting together a series of articles directed at young athletes and their sports-related health. I thought it was an excellent idea, and we agreed that if he wrote the stories I would publish them on my website. Well, below is the first article in what will become a series of articles designed to educate parents, coaches and players about their health as it relates to basketball and other sports. I hope you find the information helpful!
Game Day: “Running on Empty”
The importance of pre-game nutritional preparation, adequate fluid and electrolyte maintenance during the game and proper post game recovery has recently been emphasized by Gatorade. Attention to these concepts will not only enhance performance on game day but supports the overall health and development of the players. Good nutritional support and hydration becomes even more challenging during tournaments when the boys can play multiple games at variable times, for several days in a row.
When possible the athlete should start the day with a full meal loaded with carbohydrates and proteins. However a full meal requires over two hours for digestion so should not be consumed inside of two hours before vigorous physical activity. When game time is within two hours, the player can top off his carbohydrate stores with a snack. Cereal bars, yogurt and fruit, small turkey or peanut butter sandwiches will work well. He also should start drinking fluids two hours before the game to get pre-hydrated. Sports drinks that contain carbohydrates and electrolytes are preferable. The player should drink 16 to 24 oz. prior to the game. Stay away from high caffeine content energy drinks. Caffeine is a diuretic and will eventually lead to further dehydration.
During the game, the athlete needs to continue to consume sports drinks, about 8 oz. for every 15 minutes of playing time. A player loses important electrolytes, especially sodium and also needs a continuous energy supply from carbohydrates during intense exercise. Plain water alone does not replace these important products. Muscle function is particularly susceptible to dehydration.
After the game, not only does carbohydrate energy stores need replenished but protein loses from muscle damage need to be replaced. Protein bars, small sandwiches, vegies and fruit are good. Cheese pizzas, hot dogs and chips are not good; they have little nutritional value and do not digest efficiently. Likewise, soft drinks are also not very good because they a mostly sugar as are candy bars. Sugar does not metabolize efficiently and can make the player sluggish. For something sweet, long distance runners like chocolate milk. Water is also a good fluid to drink post game for rehydration of body cells.
When there are multiple games to play, nutrition and fluid consumption is dictated by the schedule. If there is at least three to four hours between games, the athlete can eat a full, healthy meal with protein and carbohydrates. When there is two hours or less between games, there is only time for a good snack with water or a sports drink. Be sure to include a protein source in the post-game snack to facilitate muscle recovery from the previous game. Remember that the player will need to also drink about 16 to 24 oz. in order to pre-hydrate for the next game. Drink another 8 oz. of a sports drink pre- game to get “carb’d-up” and pre-hydrated. Remember to continue to drink 8 oz. of sports drinks for every 15 minutes of play to stay hydrated during the game.
This sequence can go on multiple times during the day at a tournament. If the boys don’t remain hydrated and nourished, their performance will diminish as the day goes on. The players need to be at their best and ready to play that last game of the day for the championship and not “Running on Empty.”
By Dr. Kenneth Ransom